How long does an electric car battery last?
Last updated: January 1
Most electric vehicle (EV) batteries are guaranteed with a manufacturer warranty of at least eight years or 100,000 miles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Many experts estimate EV battery lifespan to be more than 10 years, and potentially up to 20. In fact, California already requires automakers to guarantee EV batteries for 10 years or 150,000 miles. However, the life of your battery can also be impacted by other factors, like hot weather and how it's charged, according to U.S. News. With EV battery technology continuing to evolve, it can be hard to stay up to date on how they work, how to extend their life, and what to do if your electric car battery needs to be replaced. Here’s what you need to know.
How electric car batteries work
When you plug in an electric vehicle to charge, energy is taken and stored inside the vehicle’s battery. When you drive an electric vehicle, that stored energy is sent to the controller, which operates between the battery and motor, to control the car’s speed and acceleration, according to Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Many electric cars are also equipped with a regenerative braking feature that turns some of the kinetic energy from slowing the vehicle down into electricity that can recharge the battery.
Electric cars vs gas-powered vehicles
People often want to compare electric car batteries to the batteries found in gas-powered vehicles. Electric vehicles often have a 12-volt battery, just like their gas-powered counterparts, to help start the car and power systems like the infotainment screen, according to Car and Driver.
However, where a gasoline-powered car runs on unleaded, premium, or diesel fuel, an electric vehicle is powered by the energy stored in its main battery. Electric car owners use kilowatt-hours instead of gallons of fuel to talk about the cost of charging or how much energy their battery can hold, according to Capital One. When talking about driving range, electric vehicle owners use kilowatt-hours per 100 miles instead of miles per gallon.
What’s EV battery degradation?
The hope is an electric battery’s lifespan will match the vehicle’s lifespan. However, over time, batteries tend to lose the amount of energy they can store. This drop in performance is called "battery degradation," according to GreenCars, and it can harm battery capacity, range, power, and efficiency. Battery degradation can vary depending on the manufacturer, the type of EV battery in question, and how the vehicle owner charges the battery.
Types of electric car batteries
Widely used in consumer electronics, lithium-ion batteries are also the most popular battery choice for all-electric vehicle manufacturers. They have a high energy efficiency, perform well at high temperatures, and possess a high power-to-weight ratio (they deliver a lot of power relative to their size), according to the DOE.
Nickel-metal hydride battery
Commonly used in medical equipment and computers, nickel-metal hydride batteries have been a historically popular choice for auto manufacturers producing hybrid electric vehicles, according to the DOE.
They outlast lead-acid batteries (traditional gas-powered car batteries) and are a safe, abuse-tolerant choice. However, nickel-metal hydride batteries pose some problems for manufacturers. They’re expensive, have a high rate of self-discharge (meaning the battery can lose charge on its own, even without being used), and generate lots of heat at high temperatures. These issues have led most manufacturers to transition to other technology, according to Capital One.
While this type of battery isn’t being used in electric vehicles today, solid state batteries may be the future of EV battery technology. Solid-state batteries can help significantly reduce carbon footprint, and they’re cheaper, lighter, and faster to charge than alternative options, according to GreenCars. This technology is currently being tested and could be a staple in the EV world in the coming years.
Expected lifespan of electric car batteries
The lifespan of electric car batteries can greatly vary, and depends on several factors that include what specific EV model you drive, the climate you live in, how you charge the battery, and more. While manufacturer warranties typically cover batteries for 8-10 years, here are some common factors that can impact how long your EV battery will last.
If you have an older vehicle with a nickel-metal hydride battery, it may not last as long as a newer lithium-ion battery. If and when solid-state batteries become prevalent, ceramic material will carry electrical currents instead of the liquid electrolytes found in lithium-ion batteries, according to Motor Trend, which allows for greater stability even when you’re constantly charging it.
Exposing an electric car to excessive heat increases the rate of chemical reactions inside the battery, which results in the loss of battery life, explains the Nickel Institute. If the car battery is charged in high temperatures, it also speeds up the degradation of the battery. And, in those high temperatures, the battery’s thermal management system is more active, which consumes more energy and decreases the car’s overall range.
If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll need to be extra mindful of ways to keep your car cooler. Parking inside of a garage and letting the car fully cool before charging are examples of things you can do to lessen the impact of battery degradation.
While EV batteries and systems don’t typically require regular maintenance, driving behaviors and habits can affect the lifespan. For example, charging your battery to 100% too often, draining your battery completely, or regularly relying on fast charging stations can all negatively affect EV battery lifespan, according to Kia.
Tips for extended EV battery life
Wondering how you can make your EV battery last a little bit longer? Try following these tips of things to do and things to avoid as an EV owner, from Motor Trend.
Follow manufacturer instructions
Whether you drive a Tesla, Ford, Chevrolet, or another car make, studying your vehicle’s manual can help you get the most out of its battery life. While there are some general tips to follow that can be applied across different cars, the manufacturer-provided manual may have instructions and recommendations that are unique to your specific car.
Considering extreme temperatures can impact battery life and performance, try to store your vehicle in a covered, temperature-controlled location (like a garage), particularly if you live in an area with harsh summer or winter climates.
Avoid rapid charging, whenever possible
You might have heard that rapidly charging your car’s battery can degrade its life over time. While some studies have shown minimal differences in regular charging and rapid charging over a period of time, some automakers outright discourage using rapid charging stations on a regular basis.
Considering the inconclusive information around Level 3 charging, it may be wise to use Level 1 or 2 charging more regularly and save rapid charging for rare occasions. You can use an EV charging map to find what charging options are near you.
When to replace electric car batteries
With EV battery lifespan estimates of up to 20 years and technology continuing to evolve, the hope is you won’t need to replace an EV battery during the life of the vehicle. If your EV battery stops performing within its warranty period it should be replaced for free. However, if it fails outside of the warranty period, or if you’re unsatisfied with its performance due to degradation, you might be paying to replace it out of pocket.
Battery replacement costs
If you need to replace your battery or decide you want to, you can expect to pay a significant sum, according to J.D. Power. Depending on the year, make, and model of your vehicle, you could be paying anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000. Most EV manufacturers don’t publish pricing of replacement batteries, explains the DOT.
Are EV batteries typically covered by insurance?
An electric car insurance policy may help cover the cost of battery repairs resulting from a collision or a different covered incident, such as a fire. However, repairs for routine wear and tear or mechanical breakdowns would not usually be covered by your insurance. If your electric car’s battery simply stops working one day or it gets badly degraded outside of the manufacturer’s warranty period, you may be stuck paying for a replacement, out of pocket.